Disjecta Contemporary Art Center introduced its newest curator-in-residence last month at a casual meet-and-greet where the Los Angeles transplant, Chiara Giovando, gave a brief overview of her past curatorial accomplishments and hinted at what’s to come for the Portland-based arts center. Despite the free-flow of mimosas, distractingly nice weather, and casual atmosphere, there was a healthy exchange of information and a buildup of anticipation for the upcoming exhibition season. No lineups were given, or concrete dates to mark in your calendar, but rather a sense of Giovando as an artist and curator to whet your expectations.
As a former musician and artist, Giovando has a proclivity for sound and atmospheric art and it can be assumed that they will play heavily into her curatorial style at Disjecta. She was able to drop names like the Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern, and the Whitney Biennial from her illustrious resume, but also noted smaller and more esoteric projects that reminded us why she’s at the experimental arts center, rather than the Portland Art Museum. One of her more interesting projects was her work with the archive of Danish-Fluxus composer Henning Christiansen to produce the exhibition Hammer without a Master. The show took place in Christiansen’s former studio, an old farmhouse that had been purchased by curator René Block to store the Christiansen archive. When Block proposed an exhibition for the newly acquired materials and space, it peaked two of Giovando’s interest: sound and atmosphere. She proposed opening up the archive and the farmhouse to artists so they could create works that not only resonated in physical objects, but also summoned the spirit of Christiansen through sound and space. Giovando mentioned, in particular, artist Vagn E. Olsson’s site-specific work for the exhibition where the attic of the old farmhouse was transformed into an instrument constructed from found materials and the attic’s floor. When played, Giovando attested, “it made the floorboards vibrate,” as if Christiansen’s scores were in the bones of the house.
In connection with Hammer without a Master, Giovando further explored Fluxus ideas and archival theory with the work, FLUX BOX, a sculptural publication created by Giovando and fellow artists, Scott Barry and Neil Doshi. The piece was made up of text publications and acetate recordings sourced from the Christiansen Archive and stored in a separate repository. Acetate was chosen for its inherent instability and its susceptibility to wear when used by an archivist or researcher. The intended outcome with FLUX BOX was an object that becomes an archive itself, rather than an object in an archive, as each user’s interaction with the work becomes a trace. In this way, states Giovando, the seemingly opposed ideas of movement and change inherent to the Fluxus movement and the permanence of the archive are reconciled in the work as the piece has the ability to grow and be preserved simultaneously.
After completing work with the Christiansen exhibition, Giovando worked on many notable international projects, and held a two-year position as Co-director and Curator at Human Resources L.A. In addition, she founded a residency program of her own, Thousand Points of Light (TPL), in Joshua Tree, California where she explored her passion for sound-based and visual art. Through TPL, Giovando collaborated with the Portland Museum of Modern Art (PMOMA) to curate The Outside Museum in Joshua Tree this last May. Given the location, attendance was sparse, but Giovando acknowledged that it was expected and almost preferred to a larger and easily accessible institutional show. With projects like The Outside Museum, she stated, it’s more about experimentation and delivering an experience to a few people who are willing to make the trip and appreciate the space, rather than reaching the largest possible audience. For the museum, Giovando worked again with visual artist Neil Doshi who designed a modular exhibition space highlighting the rock formations of the Mojave Desert and the region’s commanding light. The exhibition used works from the PMOMA collection, in addition to outside works from invited artists, and was assembled and disassembled each day. Playing again with themes of time, impermanence and decay, Giovando and Doshi unsettled traditional ideas of institutional art exhibition by embracing the unpredictability of an outdoor space and the transient nature of a two-day show.
The Outside Museum’s success is a hopeful harbinger of Giovando’s participation in PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival (TBA) this September— a happy addition to her four exhibitions as curator-in-residence for Disjecta. With her background in time-based art and international Rolodex of artist friends, Giovando is sure to deliver some exceptional programing at both Disjecta and TBA. To check out her debut in Portland, her first curator-in-residence show is scheduled for September 1, with the TBA opening only a few days after. Her residency will continue through May and there is talk of additional side projects happening throughout her stay in Portland. No details are out, but Disjecta’s location in North Portland allows the curator 12,000 square-feet of indoor/outdoor gallery space for performances, exhibitions, and exploration. She is excited to bring in some great visiting artists, but also has a definite interest in showcasing Portland’s creative culture through its local artists. To find out more, here are some links to stay informed on upcoming happenings:
Written by Emily Kramer